A Valet-Dictory Address

by Rob Valet | 5/25/01 5:00am

My fellow seniors, as we gather here today full of hopes and dreams for the future, I want to wish you the very best on this, our graduation.

Actually, it's not graduation just yet, and of course I am not actually reading you my valedictory speech. You'll have to imagine me at a podium reading. Picture the guy in my D photo with a little mortarboard and gown, and you've pretty much got it, although on a side note I am not nearly as ugly as my photo in the D might lead you to believe.

At this point I am sure you are asking, "why don't you just save your valedictory address for commencement?" This is a very good question. While I certainly agree with you that brains-wise, I am more than qualified, my grades are not quite at the valedictorian level. Therefore, I unfortunately will not be giving any speeches this time around.

I still don't understand how I have managed to go astray here, when it was so easy to be the valedictorian of Brockport High School. And clearly my high school is a much higher quality academic institution than Dartmouth (I always laugh when kids from Stuyvesant manage to keep a straight face when they say this).

Be that all as it may, come June 10th I will be simply a face in the crowd at graduation. Therefore, for my final D column ever, I thought I would impart some of the wisdom that I unfortunately will not be able to convey on graduation day.

So where were we? Ah yes. My fellow graduates, as I look out on your shining faces, I notice how much less they shine than when you got here. This is good -- it doesn't mean Dartmouth has disheartened you or anything, it just means your pores are finally under control. Any of you who still have zits, those should go away pretty soon.

And this is good, since as we move out into the world, we need to remember that talent, drive, and personality only get you so far in life. You really need good looks to seal the deal.

But apart from not having zits, what is it that really makes it all worth it? What is there that transcends the ephemeral human comedy? Coleridge wrote of an ultimately unobtainable Universal in "Kubla Khan." "A damsel with a dulcimer / In a vision once I saw ... Could I revive within me / Her symphony and song / To such a deep delight 'twould win me / That with music loud and long / I would build that dome in air."

Coleridge also hit the opium pipe a few too many times, which brings up another important lesson for life: when it comes to drugs, kids, Just Say No. Every time you roll a joint, Nancy Reagan cries.

As you prepare to march off into the world, always remember to consider some of the bigger questions. Although since right now you are probably reading this in the D over lunch at the Hop, you may not be marching off into the world just yet. More like "marching back to the food area to get some chocolate chip bread for dessert." Even so, as you wait in line to get your card swiped, do take some time to ponder what it's all about.

I think perhaps the greatest food analogy attempting to explain the meaning of life was written by the recently departed Douglas Adams in his book "So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish." "Life," Adams wrote, "is like a grapefruit. It's sort of orangy-yellow and dimpled on the outside, wet and squidgy in the middle. It's got pips inside, too. Oh, and some people have half a one for breakfast."

Only when we come to grips with the full implication of these powerful words will we approach a true understanding of the nature of the universal. I do not claim to fully comprehend this visionary work -- but then, I'm not the real valedictorian either.

Instead, I offer a somewhat different (and more self-indulgent) analogy regarding the meaning of life. Life, I propose, is rather like writing a D column. At the beginning, it's hard to figure out what it's all going to be about. Soon, though, it all starts to come together, and before you know it...you die. Ok, so the analogy kind of breaks down at the end.

Ok, wait, now I've got the end figured out. Before you know it, you're done, and you move on to whatever lies beyond -- beyond lunch at the Hop, or eventually, beyond life itself. My fellow seniors, as we take the step beyond Dartmouth, I wish you all the best of luck, whatever you may do and wherever life may take you. So Long, as they say, and Thanks for All the Fish.

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